Basement

“It doesn’t add up” she thought to herself, staring at the broken down piece of what looked like a faded red farm equipment.

“Why would someone have so much junk… just lying around…” her imagination ran wild as all of the reasons, and more, flew rampant in her mind.

But it wasn’t just the broken down piece of machinery in the front yard. It was also the hoard of OTHER things she found in the basement. There were polaroids and magazines of yesteryear, broken film projectors and old batteries. Now why would anyone save used double AAs from the 80s? The basement smelled musty and dank. There is a leak somewhere. There has to be. Old basements are never dry.

The basement; what a place of mystery and horror. All of those stories she’s woven in her head. What happened to the ones that she never committed to paper? They’re probably lying in the basement of her mind. Somewhere, all cobwebby and such. Just waiting to be picked up, dusted off and stared at in awe by some unsuspecting soul who will maybe see a reflection of themselves in what was once her story. Her story. Saved in the confines of the basement of HER mind.

That’s what basements are all about. You think it’s yours until it’s not.

But still… what exactly even is this particular piece of farming tool painted all red??

DeTech-tive Series – Part 1

Day 2 sitting out here staring at the wilderness. I’m learning about new plants and insects.

Two days back, during a work meeting, I felt something flying down with the weight of a heavy dead leaf and land on the brown adirondack chair right behind my neck. I jumped up, exclaiming loud, fully expecting whatever it was to have flown away already.

I was surprised to see 2 big eyes looking up at me from the back of a matte black insect that looked relatively harmless. It was the length of my thumb, but double in width. But I have small hands. So half whatever image you have in your head.

I tried to reason why it looked “harmless”. The lack of any protruding forcep like appendages from its head definitely helped. The body of the insect was matte black like I mentioned, but with a dusting of white splashes across its body. I got closer to it as I heard Luigi go “whoa what is it?” at the other end of the call. I’d turned the camera around so that he could see what I was looking at. My mind reaffirmed me that it was harmless.

Shiny/Glossy = Poisonous

Matte = Harmless

Now don’t ask me how my subconscious did that instant math. But that’s what my mind told me, and I trusted it. 

Isn’t that what the gut is meant to be? Nothing but a combined mental aggregate of your life’s experiences that will help you make decisions quicker than making instant coffee? I trusted my gut the same way I wish I’d trusted my gut the last time I complicated my life. 

But no, this story about the beetle isn’t about how it complicated my life. Because it didn’t. And it is likely something I should scratch off my “My Uncomplicated Story” book. But that is for the second draft. For now, I’m leaving it in my first draft, and you get to hear all about this matte black insect with big eyes. But I will also extract this and publish this as a blog post. There you go.

“Elongated black beetle with big eyes” I found myself typing in google as I heard Luigi in the distance talking about how this is why he doesn’t work from the backyard, and how I should get citronelli and maybe even a bug screen. 

“Eastern Eyed Click Beetle”, aka “Alaus Oculatus”. That’s what its name was and apparently it was harmless. But those big white spots on its back were apparently fake eyes. It’s in disguise!

I peered closer to it and tried to blow on it to see if it would move. It didn’t budge. It didn’t want to leave my chair. So I gave up and found the other adirondack chair and settled down to finish my call with Luigi, even as I tried to commit to my brain that a dusty looking matte rattlesnake is still poisonous. I hoped my gut would react appropriately the next time I see one.

This concludes this story in my de-tech-tive series, where you will learn about “mysteries” I solved using tech (basically google).

* this story is partly fiction, and names of humans have been changed

The Bucket List

26 year old F from Argentina plans to go to Australia towards the end of the year. He’s been in Mexico for 9 months, and wants to go back to his hometown for 2 months before embarking on his next adventure in the land down under. He wants to pursue his masters in Physical Therapy while working in Australia.

When he found out that I’m from NY, he told me he’s worked as a lifeguard in Hunter, NY at a summer camp. While working there, he got 1 day off each week, so him and his friends would get a bike and ride 30km each way and explore Hunter.

Hunter is another one of my dream towns. If you’ve been following me a while, you’ll remember I went plot hunting for fun around some remote mountains a couple of years ago. That was around Hunter. There’s limited cell service in Hunter; but the views make it worth the while.

F told me I should visit Argentina, specifically Patagonia. I shared that hiking the W in Patagonia continues to be one of the only 4 items on my bucket list.

This reminded me that I never think of my bucket list unless someone brings it up in conversation. Either my bucket list needs reprioritization, or my life needs reassessment (my project management tendencies kicking in).

Why am I prioritizing things that aren’t on my bucket list? Should I just throw out my bucket list altogether? Clearly they’re not important enough for me to do it today?

Or… do you intentionally delay getting to your bucket list so you have something to live for? Bucket lists are, after all, meant to last a lifetime. It won’t be fair to the bucket 🪣 if you run through them all in one year, surely.

Or… is the most efficient way to manage a bucket list by getting through the items quickly, and keep replenishing the bucket as you run out of items? That sounds exhausting.

I think I prefer the former strategy. I want to savor my bucket list. The items on it are special. And I don’t want to rush through those experiences.

Food for thought.

F and I looked out over the Channel, watching the storm rolling into the stillness of Cozumel.

Kannur-ing

I saw so many beautiful sights, I have no energy to find the perfect image for this post.

But it needs to be recorded that this Indian summer I saw many beautiful sights and experienced so many firsts; right here in Kannur. Mountains and beaches and trees and sand and sun and rocks and cliffs and fishes and what the Kunafa!

Who knew Kannur had so much to offer?

Mappila Bay, Kannur

Here is a picture of some people fishing at the Mappila Bay in Kannur. There were a ton of lone fishermen there, standing precariously on the giant rocks, teeming with red colored crabs.

One of them spoke in Hindi, directing some others on what to do. Maybe he had a small business setup going on over there on the rocky pier, and he was giving instructions to his staff. Maybe the staff had to meet a quota.

All of the men (there were no women there holding a line) were going through the same set of motions. 1) Grab a piece of fish tail/fish head/shrimp from the plastic bag sitting at their feet on the rocks, 2) hook the fishy bait at one end of the blue plastic fishing line, which emerged from a spool which was about 5 inches in diameter 3) hurl the bait end of the line into the bay as far as they can 4) slowly reel the line back in after five minutes – with or without fish 5) repeat steps 3 through 5.

I asked someone how long it generally takes to get a bite. He said with a smile that it depends on how long it takes for the fish to bite. I asked him how long he’d been waiting. He said half hour.

Meanwhile, one of the other guys caught a fish. He was older. He said the name of the fish was “Champeri”. Am I remembering the name wrong and getting it mixed up with the town I passed through on the way to Palakkayam Thattu? I could be. But for now, let’s call it Champeri.

Champeri rested flat at the bottom of a white cloth bag. Champeri looked about a foot long. He said he could sell Champeri for Rs 600 and that it’s fresh catch.

I left being thankful he used a cloth bag, but couldn’t help wonder if the cloth bag was reusable and how long it would take to wash the smell of dead fish off the white cotton threads.

Something Forgotten

I swiped the stray hair that was falling into my eyes. I felt dampness in spite of the chill temperature at the airport. My mind was running a million different ways. I wondered if I’d plugged in the light upstairs. If I hadn’t, Appan would have to go without light upstairs until the next time I returned. There was only so much that can be explained via a phone call. And who knows when the next time I’ll be coming back. Especially considering the circumstances. 

I blinked furiously as I felt the corners of my eyes sting with tears that were threatening to fall. I was not looking forward to going back to Delhi. 

I could hear soft music playing from somewhere. It must be an inconsiderate jerk who decided to forgoe headphones in a public place. The song was something that held a special place in my heart. In our hearts. Yet, I felt nothing. It came as no surprise to me. Music just didn’t feel right to me anymore. Music was just that these days. Words strung together in a tune and nothing more than that. 

I decided to go get some coffee. I never liked coffee unless I made it myself. But right now I didn’t care. My body was craving a jolt of caffeine. My body was craving a jolt of just about anything at that point. Anything to make me feel alive.

The coffee was hot enough to make the impact of the jolt twice as strong. I took a slow sip before I pulled out my wallet to make the payment. I could see someone looking at me from the corner of my eyes. I figured it was probably my disheveled appearance that was prompting the extra attention I was receiving. I forced myself not to look in that direction. 

I stood there and took a couple more sips of my coffee. By that point it had become awkward not to look at the person who was showing such intense interest in my coffee drinking ritual, because I could see the person pointing to me and saying something to the woman sitting beside him. He obviously wanted to make eye contact with me. I figured what gives, and looked at him making sure that I had the best version of my bitch face on. 

The person was looking at me with a knowing smile, gesturing towards me with his head to come over and sit beside him, as if he can explain everything to me. I stared at his face. His straight hair hung diagonally across his forehead, brushed carelessly to the side and tucked behind his ear. He definitely needed a haircut. His face was covered with a thick beard and mustache. But the smile behind all the hair felt intimately familiar. Like a long forgotten fragrance filling my lungs with its presence, while at the same time filing my mind with flashes of memories that I’d forgotten I still had access to.

“B-b-b..” I said. How could I not remember his name? Why is it that the brain does such a good job remembering how many packets of sugar your next door neighbor used in his morning tea vs his evening tea when you were 10 years old, but fails in remembering the name of the closet thing you had to a best friend at one point in life?

He was patting the chair next to him by this point, wanting me to sit next to him. “B-b-b” he repeated. “Don’t even remember my name?” he said, a half smile playing on lips not entirely hidden by the moustache. 

“This is.. how long has it been??” I blabbered.

“14 years at least?” he said, all trace smile gone from his face. I didn’t miss the pensive look in his eyes.

“Where are you heading?” I asked trying to move the conversation in a direction I was more comfortable handling.

“Back home. California” he said.

“You made it happen, huh” I said. 

“Sure did, princess ghee” he was looking into my eyes the way no one has in a really long while, his face still unsmiling. It was as if we were picking up a half finished conversation from a long time back. And perhaps we were. 

I wondered if he still wondered why? I shook the thought from my mind. Why would he. He probably has the perfect life in perfect California, with a perfect wife and a perfect dog and no children yet, but likely a couple of them within the next few years before hitting 35.

Epilogue

I don’t remember writing this. I don’t remember what prompted this writing either. I found this as I was clearing out untitled docs in the root of my Google Drive.

I normally create untitled documents in the root of my Google Drive when I want to take quick notes. I rarely leave them untitled though. I always title them before closing out the doc once I’m done writing. I make sure I at least title it with a “to be deleted” title so I know what to do with it when I get into my clean up mode, like the mode I’m in right now.

I checked my calendar to see where I was on Friday, February 15th, which is when I last edited the doc. My calendar revealed nothing. So I checked my inbox, which indicated that I made Venmo payments to a friend for the Polynesian in Hells Kitchen. The payment notes indicated I was there with two friends, one of whom I’d met while in India, and the other, who had introduced her to me while in India.

I’m not quite sure what my muse was when I wrote this at 12.32pm on a Friday afternoon back in February 2019. It looks unedited. Not even proof read. It felt strange reading it, because to be honest, I really don’t recall writing this, which is very rare. But I do see certain patterns that indicate that I am the author.

The Leather Travel Kit

The case was made of leather and looked worn. It looked sturdy though. The zipper lay unzipped, yet I couldn’t see what was inside.

As I crept closer, the thought didn’t escape me that it belonged to a dead person. I should probably not peek into it.

Would I want someone looking through my travel kit? Absolutely not.

Morbid curiosity got the better of me, and I knew I wanted to see what was inside the dusty kit. Morbid. I realize the use of the word is not in good taste.

Memories of my brother prying open an uncle’s travel kit as a toddler, and knicking his baby index finger on a razor, ran through my head as I stuck out my index finger, and gingerly tugged the case open.

It contained everything I’d expected it to contain, with the exception of the strip of batteries (why?), but seeing the nail clippers got to me for some reason.

I thought about my travel kit that had taken a constant spot on top of my washer whenever I’m home between travels – it is as personal as it gets for me. It is the one thing that I can instantly roll up and take with me on my travels. And it is the one thing that makes me instantly feel at home regardless of where my home for the night is.

I wonder if he knew; if he knew as he clipped his nails, and put the clippers back in the kit, that there would be no next time. If he knew, would he have left it there? So that a random stranger can write a post about how vulnerable it must have felt to leave a half finished piece of your life, for someone to take a peek at.

Outgrow Your Haven

One day you will outgrow your haven

The fluorescence of your mile markers,
Glaring in the rearview

One day you will outgrow your haven

Will you paint over it?
I hope you weighed all options

Nature vs Human – What Would You Pick?

Living in Kansas City, tornado warnings were an everyday occurrence. Moving from a country where there were no tornadoes, to the heart of tornado land, I quickly learned a thing or two about tornadoes.

As freshmen in college, we’d rush to the 1st floor of Chestnut dorms, or “1st floor” as we called it, every time we heard the tornado sirens in the distance. The sound of the sirens was always a distant hum that was barely audible. If we missed it, we’d be sure to hear the RAs (Resident Assistants) who’d come banging at our doors, asking us to get moving.

1st floor always smelled a bit funky. 1st floor was also the freshmen guys’ floor. I don’t think there is any correlation between those two pieces of information. But somehow those are the only two things that come to mind when I think of the 1st floor.

Even though 1st floor was technically the 1st floor of Chestnut, it often felt like a basement. Chestnut was built on the side of a hill, and the entrance to the building was on the second floor. So in order to get to the 1st floor, you had to descend a few stairs. There was no external exit from the 1st floor, which kinda gave the male populated, funky smelling 1st floor a bit of a dungeon vibe.

Giggling, we’d huddle on the floor, in the 1st floor hallway, making jokes about how that ‘nado is never gonna hit the ground anyway.

If it was a particularly bad storm, we’d all be rushed into the “underground”. The “underground” was a brightly light, frigidly air conditioned section of the university that was built entirely INSIDE of another hill. I realize there were a lot of hills on campus.

The “underground” was also said to have been mined by former university students from the mid 1800s, in exchange for free education. It is also possible that I am making up this bit of information. Not much from my freshmen orientation from 16 years ago remain in my mind; but limestone mining by former students is a picture that is ingrained quite deeply.

I say all this because I moved away from Kansas City over 10 years ago. And in those 10 years, I haven’t experienced a single Tornado warning. Until today.

When that alert came to my phone, the first thought that came to my mind was slight fear. Because in 10 years I’d forgotten what it meant to be under tornado watch, let alone a tornado warning.

What do I do? Where do I go? How is it that I feel so unprepared, in spite of my extensive Kansas (City) experience?

Typed out, I realize it sounded like I was panicking. Don’t let me mislead you. Even though I had these thoughts rushing through my head, the most I did was draw the curtains, and lay on the couch with a blanket over me, starting to write this blog post, while also doing a quick Google search about what to do when you don’t have a basement.

I also texted a couple of friends just to make sure I wasn’t missing out on some mass panic movement that was going on that I was unaware of.

Like I mentioned, I’d started to write this blog while plopped on my couch, while the storm was brewing outside. Once I got to the part that required a screenshot of the alert, I went back to my text message thread so that I could take a neat little screenshot that can be inserted into this post.

As I started cropping it up, the history of the thread gave me pause.

It was sobering to see the stark difference between the kinds of alerts I’ve been receiving over the past year. If I could take a picture of how my life has changed over the past year, having swapped out the fast pace and fully booked social calendar of the city life, to a life of last minute impulsive travel and long long car rides to little known hiking trails, this would be it.

June 2nd, 2020 read "Citywide curfew... No traffic allowed in Manhattan south of 96th st..."
July 29, 2021 read "TORNADO WARNING"

Can you tell my threats are now nature, whereas previously it was human?

On the left, view from my old apartment. On the right, my new life. Which would you pick?

I am at peace.

Is this real life?

“So… have you always been a hermit?”

“I never thought of myself that way… but… I suppose so…” she replied

Time stands still at that dock, overlooking the languidly moving currents of the creek, laced by a thin film of dirt and grit.

“I wonder what you’re like when the sky breaks and it starts to storm….” she mused.

all the little stories that went unwritten until now